Film Review: ‘The Call’

Halle Berry and her pretty awesome 'do star in the thriller "The Call" CREDIT: Greg Gayne
Halle Berry and her pretty awesome ‘do star in the thriller “The Call”
CREDIT: Greg Gayne

‘The Call’
Director: Brad Anderson
Stars: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Modest, if not basement-level, expectations can do one a world of good, and expectations don’t get more modest than a mid-level thriller starring Halle Berry and directed by almost-auteur Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”). And like the extremely similar “Cellular” — whose overqualified cast included William H. Macy and Oscar winner Kim Basinger — it’s a surprisingly almost rigorous glorified B-picture that repeatedly finds ways to extend an anemic premise to a perfectly acceptable short length.

Berry plays a rock star 911 operator introduced messing up a distress call, resulting in a young girl kidnapped and murdered. Her confidence shaken, she winds up on the phone with a similar situation (coincidence?), this time with Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin. Breslin has been chloroformed and stuck in a trunk. Berry hatches schemes — some, to put it lightly, quite questionable — to locate the car, as it apparently takes more than the length of a relatively short movie to trace the prepaid phone with which she’s conveniently stuck.

Berry, of course, is an Oscar winner, and like many pretty actresses who win major acting trophies — like Basinger, actually — she tends to overemote as if to prove her mettle. It’s weird, then, to see her relaxed, for once, as a phone jockey, fielding calls with a cucumber cool that only sporadically spills over into showboaty hyperventilating. This is probably Berry’s best, or at least most assured performance — in a movie called “The Call,” about a telephone conversation, directed by someone whose previous movie was the laughable “Vanishing on 7th Street.” That’s not saying much, frankly, but when praise is due, that’s what you get.

Anderson isn’t a great director; he overuses “intensifying” sound effects to make up for obvious deficiencies. But he doesn’t get in the way of a script that finds ways both novel and amusingly ridiculous to keep the plot going, even when it looks (as it repeatedly does) to be on the verge of premature resolution. It’s a cheap screenwriter’s trick to have the plot foiled at times by dumb civilians — including Michael Imperioli as one seriously thoughtless richie — but it exploits the idea that, you know, people can be kind of stupid. The baddie’s endgame is far weirder than necessary, and he gives the Enya-rockin’ villain of the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” remake a run for his money by chillaxing to Taco’s cover of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Of course, one still ought to dial down expectations. Go into “The Call” demanding a covert masterpiece would be foolish.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Apple says its systems not to blame for…

By Edwin Chan and Christina FarrSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The week before a crucial launch of its new iPhone, Apple Inc said intimate photos of…

Local

Tallest residential building planned for lower Manhattan

A residential tower planned for lower Manhattan will soar 1,356 feet in the air -- just 12 feet shy of 1 World Trade Center. When…

Local

Bronx man commits suicide by decapitation

A Bronx man committed suicide Monday morning in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx by decapitating himself. According to the NYPD, the 51-year-old man…

Local

Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…

Arts

Pop culture and prostitutes: New Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec documented the cult of celebrity and the rise of pop entertainment in his prints, posters and lithographs — now on display at MoMA.

Arts

PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…

Music

Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.

Music

Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…

NFL

Michael Vick set to be weekly guest with…

Mike Francesa may need to backtrack from his harsh commentary of Michael Vick now that the Jets backup quarterback will be a weekly guest on his show.

NFL

Jets expect to make playoffs after sitting on…

The same pundits who predicted the Jets would be woeful a season ago are now eying the playoffs for this revamped team.

NFL

Antonio Allen returns to practice after concussion

Antonio Allen was cleared to practice again following his concussion two weeks ago.

Sports

Belinda Bencic leads crop of young stars serving…

Belinda Bencic, a 17-year-old Swiss Miss, beat two Top-10 players before suffering a disappointing loss Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

Parenting

In defense of making a mess during playtime

"Recipes for Play" authors Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener think playtime should involve the five senses and making a mess is part of the fun.

Wellbeing

Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…

Wellbeing

Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…